Finishing the W, 3 nights, 4 days

13 Feb

The third and last night of camping may have been the most disheartening and difficult. I arrived just as the sun was setting, and finished putting together the tent just before it went pitch dark.

I unloaded my gear and prepared to make dinner when my flashlight went out. It wasn’t the first time the little guy had failed me (the first time was in Costa Rica), and I cursed it relentlessly.

I thought I was being resourceful when I decided to use the stove’s light instead. But just as my soup was boiling and ready to eat, karma came knocking on the door and the soup spilled all over the tent. I had tricked the camp grounds into letting me camp for free and it seemed like the evening’s events were my punishment.

I scrambled to clean the soup and even ate some of it : ) Hey, I was hungry. But I was worried that the strong smell would attract animals throughout the night and I blindly stumbled across the dark campground to the refugio. I borrowed a towel and did the best I could to mop the rest of the mess.

That night, no animals (or none that I know of) showed up at my tent. Instead, I was met with a flood of rainwater that permeated through my tent and wet half of my sleeping bag. I was happy to be going home. And after my earliest morning yet, I set out to do the last portion of the hike.

It was the nicest day on the trail yet, and I saw more sun than I’d seen all week. The day was still intermittent with rain and at times you could see multiple weather systems at once.

It turns out a walking stick can actually be really useful. By the end, I was so happy with the branch I had found, that I almost had difficulty letting it go. It was like Wilson from Cast Away, though I promise I never talked to the stick. Still, it had the perfect shape and carried me harmlessly through rivers and steep ascents and it had been with me for the last two days.


The end of the hike led to a beautiful valley with a view of the last refugio, my would be exit point from the park. It was surreal and the last few miles were tiring and impatient. Unfortunately though, I would not be able to complete the W. To truly have finished it, would have taken another 5 hours past the refugio to a glacier set up top the mountains, and another 5 to get back.

As it turned out, I didn’t wake up early enough to do the last portion, and to be honest, a part of me was glad. I was tired and sore and when I finally arrived at the refugio, I passed out immediately on one of the comfy couches in the lobby. In the end, I could have completed it all by staying for another night, but we had a plane to catch to Iguazu Falls and to stay for another day would have meant to miss it.


When I got back to Argentina and told the tale to Danny, he said it seemed like I hated it. Indeed, the blog might seem like a laundry list of complaints. It was a challenging few days but they were far from miserable. In the end, Torres del Paine wasn’t the most beautiful national park I’ve visited (I think El Chalten takes the prize), and none of the trails were particularly difficult or steep. But it was my first trek longer than two days, and my first time sleeping outside (apart from summer camp). And it’s definitely something I will want to do again when I get back to the states, next time for even longer.


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